NICHOLS, SC (WMBF) – Jeremy Finger lost his father in 2001 and he was determined to rescue a lot of sentimental possessions from his childhood home in Nichols.
To get to them, he and a friend from Columbia would have to face more than 3 feet of water that started making its way into the house Sunday night. His mother, Kathy Finger, was forced to head to the second floor while she waited to be rescued.
"I'm absolutely devastated and shocked," Kathy Finger said Monday evening from her son's home in Myrtle Beach.
Kathy Finger has lived in that same house for 40 years and never had any issues with flooding from the Lumber or the Pee Dee rivers, with the exception of some minor problems during the historic floods last October.
It was a much different story on Sunday evening, as area rivers continued to rise following the impact of Hurricane Matthew.
"About 8:30, I heard the gurgling in the vents, and I had never heard that before," she said.
Finger grabbed a flashlight and looked in one of the vents. What she saw was water.
At that point, she said she started to become alarmed and called a neighbor to say she didn't feel safe in her home.
Finger stepped outside and saw the horror that was starting to grip her neighborhood. She said she couldn't walk to her neighbor's house because the water would have been up to her thighs.
Eventually, she sought refuge on the second floor before being rescued by emergency responders.
At that time, the water was up to her waist.
"It was a terrifying event," Finger said. "My home is in 3 feet of water."
She was one of 30 people taken to the Nichols Town Hall. They were all eventually evacuated and moved to an area school after rising waters threatened the building.
With his mother safe, Jeremy Finger went on a rescue mission of his own Monday. He and his friend used a boat to get back to the house.
They spent four hours there rummaging through drawers and taking everything of sentimental value, particularly those items belonging to his late father.
Among the possessions were the flight logs his dad kept from his time as a pilot, a gun he bought in Africa, his father's Rolex watch and the letter his grandparents received upon entering the United States after traveling by boat from Latvia in 1896.
"We took everything that didn't have upholstery on it," Jeremy Finger said.
They also rescued his mom's cat, Boots, who was sitting on top of a car in the flooded garage. He said his mother's rescue was so fast that she did not have time to take the animal.
After retrieving all they could, Jeremy Finger and his friend were back in the boat, driving through a town virtually underwater.
"There's not a house in Nichols that's not flooded," he said.
Still, Finger was happy to retrieve those items which could not be replaced.
"I was just thinking about all the memories that were there and trying to preserve them any way I can," he said.